For a long time, I've been showering early. I use a handy Amazon Alexa speaker to listen to music in the shower. (No more being electrocuted by my transistor radio.) For the last few weeks, I have been listening to a specific slate of Elvis Costello songs.
Like the long-winded Narrator in Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past, I was immediately transported back to my misspent youth, my freshman year of college in 1980. Kevin, a friend from high school, asked me if I wanted to help him with a Greek-related "Moms Day Sing," a competition show of musical skits presented by the university's sororities and fraternities during the annual Moms Weekend. We had crewed shows in high school together, so Kevin invited me to join the show's lighting and sound crew.
Day after day when my classes were over, I would head to the auditorium to work on this show. It was a daunting task. The show had 12 ten-minute skits, each with multiple lighting cues and microphone levels. Each skit had its own director, so we were dealing with 12 harried, egotistical artists, all of whom wanted to win the big prize awarded at the end of the show.
MEMORY: I distinctly remember in the middle of one particularly grueling rehearsal, a helpful fraternity boy walked up to me and said, “You should smile more.” I have taken that advice to heart ever since. Thank you, helpful Sigma Tau douchebag.
Most of the skits were... very bad. Between practicing my smile and being yelled at by 12 Panhellenic auteurs, I would often sit there during downtime in rehearsals and imagine what sort of better competitive skit I would fabricate. Elvis Costello had just released the album Taking Liberties, a compendium of his non-album tracks and B-sides. I had always been a rabid fan of classic Universal Monster films. The two things seemed to go together like strawberries and shortcake.
What if you recreated the final scene in The Bride of Frankenstein, I wondered, but made it a musical? What if you used nothing but obscure Elvis Costello songs? What would that be like? What would it look like? What would it sound like? Could it possibly WIN THE MOMS DAY SING?
Obviously, that never happened. I crewed the Sing for two more years, smiling as if insane.
Each year, the students and I would choose a theme to focus the show, specifically the comedy material that served as connective tissue. We did some crazy themes: diversity, travel, love, death, wholesome family values, dishonesty, rejection, reality. One year, the students and I chose THE MOVIES as our theme. This was the year after Patrick graduated (which I remember distinctly because I kept wishing he was still in the cast.) It was “Not-Yet-Old-Enough-to-Move-to-LA” Doug's Senior year.
What if we dusted off my cobweb-covered idea from college and ended the show with a ten-minute mini-musical, now titled Bride! The kids thought it was a great idea. I had a remarkable tech director willing to build the enormous set. I had a crackerjack pit band willing to learn all the Elvis Costello songs. I had a talented cast of students who could actually sing the songs live. Could my visionary monster mashup finally happen?
Why, yes. Yes, it could. What follows is a detailed description of the piece, complete with links to the YouTube machine so that my readers can hear the songs. Enjoy.
THE USHER STANDS ILLUMINATED IN A SMALL SPOTLIGHT. AS HE SINGS, THE MASSIVE LABORATORY SET BEHIND HIM IS SLOWLY REVEALED.
“Black and White World”
LIGHTS UP FULL ON FAITHFUL RECREATION OF THE LABORATORY FROM THE 1935 FILM. HENRY, IGOR, AND PRETORIUS ARE BUSY PREPARING THE EQUIPMENT. A STRANGE, BANDAGED FIGURE LIES ON THE TABLE IN FRONT OF THEM.
Isn't it amazing, Henry, that lying here, within this skull, is an artificially developed human brain, each cell, each convolution, ready, waiting for life to come...
HENRY SINGS ABOUT ALL THE PARTS THAT WENT INTO THE BRIDE. ALSO, HE IS IN LOVE WITH HER.
“From Head to Toe”
Look. The storm is coming up over the mountains. It will be here soon.
The kites! Are the kites ready?
Then send them up as soon as the wind rises. Hurry, hurry.
The kites! The kites! Get 'em ready!
Send down your wires!
All right, start your winches; I'm coming up.
Now, up with the kites.
IGOR SINGS ABOUT REPLACING SOME OF THE BRIDE’S INTERNAL ORGANS WITH RADIO TUBES. ALSO, HE LOVES HER.
THE MONSTER ARRIVES MID-SONG TO TERRORIZE IGOR.
Go back. Go back down! Go down! No, don't! No! Get away!
Get away! Get away! No. Don't. No. Don't come near me! Get away!
Don't! No! No! Get back! Don't! Don't! Don't!
THE MONSTER TOSSES IGOR THROUGH A CONVENIENT LABORATORY WINDOW. IGOR'S SCREAM IS CUT OFF BY THE SQUISHY SOUND OF HIS OWN DEMISE. THE LAB'S ELECTRICAL MACHINES GO CRAZY. THEN...
Raise the cosmic diffuser. Remove the diffuser bands.
She's alive! ALIVE!
The Bride of Frankenstein!
THE BRIDE OPENS HER EYES, LOOKS TO AND FRO... LOOKS TO HENRY,
THEN PRETORIUS, THEN TO THE MONSTER. SHE BEGINS TO SING.
“Baby’s Got a Brand-New Hairdo”
Stand back. Stand back!
She hate me, like others.
Look out! The lever!
Get away from that lever!
You'll blow us all to atoms.
(Motioning towards HENRY)
Yes. Go. You live! Go.
We belong dead.
THE MONSTER BEGINS TO SING. “Getting Mighty Crowded”
Universal Studios seems hell bent on exploiting their Monster IP lately, between Renfield and Last Voyage of the Demeter and Halloween Horror Nights at the theme parks. Clearly, Universal needs to contact me (and Elvis Costello) and make this germ of an idea into a full-fledged musical, a real feature film... and a tribute to the original monsters.
Universal executives, you have my number. CALL ME.